North Korea's Nuclear Threat

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il.
I'm Barry Petersen with this Letter from Asia.

China was the one country that was once thought to have real influence on North Korea. But over the last few years, that perception has slowly eroded. Especially after Chinese diplomacy couldn't stop a North Korea missile test July forth.

With America distracted in Iraq, it's been a busy few years for North Korea's leader. After Kim Jong Il cheated on a treaty and the Bush administration cut off aide, he reached for his high card…his nuclear weapons program.

Inspectors were tossed out…the site once in plain site is now dispersed and hidden. And President Bush made it personal, including North Korea in his Axis of Evil.

Professor Kenneth Quinones is an American teaching in Japan. He was the first US diplomat to visit North Korea. He wonders how the US will deal with a nuclear North.

"I think right now we are quickly seeing in North Asia a movement towards the worst case scenario, a slippery slope," Quinones says. "The decision is now being considered in Washington DC…do you stop that through military force or do you give diplomacy another effort. If the decision is military force I think we will see the entire situation blow up, literally in our faces."

North Korea holds South Korea hostage…if attacked, the North could rain hundreds of thousands of artillery shells and missiles pretty much destroying Seoul…killing millions. And despite publicly supporting talks on North Korea, Quinones says the Bush Administration was privately more interested in an Iraq-style regime change for North Korea.

"My personal experience was to see earnest diplomats on both sides, the US and the North Korean side, attempt to first of all reopen channels of communication and then to develop potential solutions so they could go back to the negotiating table," explains Quinones. "However, now every time they made progress, I also saw individuals in the Bush administration take steps that simply pulled the rug out form under that progress."

Quinones says some use the failure they engineered to push a hard-line approach. "What we have now are the so called hardliners, the individuals who claim, ah diplomacy has failed therefore not it is time to first tighten the economic screws and if that fails we go to the next step, the military option. This is the first time in many, many years I am this pessimistic."

Differing sides may have different views of how we got here. What no one seems to have, diplomats or the American President, is anything resembling a plan…and every day, North Korea is building it nuclear bombs and developing a long-range missile with one target in mind…the United States.
by Barry Petersen